Ari Folman’s Waltz With Bashir (2008) presents a convergence of fictional and non-fictional elements in that the story is true—depicting actual events—yet animated. Shifting the viewer’s attention between modes of documentary and fictional consciousness, the film has shored up much critique of its alleged documentary status.
The gorgeous animation is perhaps the film’s greatest virtue as a piece of art while also its greatest fault as a piece of document. The film is visually enthralling and engaging on a visceral level but the animation transforms the terror into pleasure; as a result, the animation deafens the impact of the traumatic events depicted.
In spite of this, the viewer may easily discern between the real and the fictitious, and shifts in his/her attention will be marked and recognizable. Since the animation draws attention to itself, it’s quite easy to retain a fictional consciousness. This is not to lessen the importance of what is being documented; however, it does augment what exactly is being documented.
If one begins to look at the film as a subjective account of trauma—with the stylized animation linked to disassociations of memory etc.—then the mode of filmmaking becomes irrelevant. In this contextualization, the fictional element of animation may in fact produce an authentic experience of the war as it is from the inside. In dispensing of documentary elements—which would undoubtedly be limited—Folman utilizes the artificial to create a rather verisimilar experiencing of trauma. Instead of seeing the war, the striking animation helps the viewer to feel it.